This is one fucked-up example of blaming the victim.
Fugitive in paradise
Thieves took two days to break open a safe to steal at least 32 guns
Collector lost $40,000 in firearms
`I'm shattered,' he says of shootings
Jan. 7, 2006. 10:23 AM
BETSY POWELL, DALE BRAZAO AND JOHN DUNCANSON
ORLANDO, FLA.-Dozens of high-powered weapons that have flooded Toronto streets were stolen from a well-known gun collector and firearms instructor who kept his dangerous stash in a subsidized housing apartment in Scarborough.
One of the guns taken from the apartment was used last September in one of the worst bloodbaths in the history of Toronto - a triple murder near the end of the Summer of the Gun, in a year marked by the worst gun violence the city has seen. Today, the collector, Mike Hargreaves, is a fugitive from Canadian justice, living in a modest, two-storey stucco home a few kilometres from Disney World. Many of the 32 to 35 guns stolen from his Toronto apartment (machine guns, Glock handguns and assault rifles) are still on the streets.
Though he once had many friends on the Toronto police force (Hargreaves was the man who successfully lobbied the force during the early 1990s to adopt the Glock semi-automatic handgun as its standard issue), that same force has a warrant out for his arrest, alleging his arsenal was improperly stored.
Hargreaves' stolen cache raises serious issues around the screening of gun collectors, and the licensing and storage of guns in Canada. The federal government gave him a storage license to keep weapons in a housing complex in an area known for gang activity.
Police estimate about half the guns used in crime in Toronto are legally owned guns stolen in break-ins.
Just this week, police recovered three stolen weapons in two separate arrests: two firearms stolen during a break-and-enter in Caledon and a rifle stolen from a home in Hamilton.
Every year, as many as 3,000 firearms are reported stolen in Canada.
"I'm shattered to know that my guns are out there being used by people with no training and no morals," says the 70-year-old who says he was instrumental in Toronto police and many other forces switching from the traditional .38-calibre revolver to the Glock.
In an interview at his home, Hargreaves says he has no plans to return to face the charges. He says his guns were properly stored in a steel reinforced vault. Hargreaves, who casts himself as a victim, says it is common for the Toronto Police to charge a person who has been victimized. Hargreaves believes Toronto police are making him a scapegoat because "they can't catch the bad guys."
Top officials at the Toronto Police Service, like Chief Bill Blair, said they would not comment on the Hargreaves case because charges are pending.
In addition to his work as a lobbyist Hargreaves' curriculum vitae says he is a licensed, professional firearms and tactics instructor and lists as clients the Toronto Police Service, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police along with York, Halton, London and Windsor police forces.
Hargreaves, a one-time bouncer from Liverpool, England, has worked with guns most of his adult life. He collects them, teaches police officers and armoured car personnel how to use them and is a founding member of the Ontario branch of the International Practical Shooting Confederation.
A decade ago, Hargreaves rented unit 1707 at 31 Gilder Dr. - a massive apartment complex run by the Toronto Community Housing Corp. To qualify for an apartment, a person typically has a very low - or no - income (often the person is on welfare). Hargreaves, whose gun consulting office was in Mississauga, used the Gilder Dr. apartment as his "storage facility."
Every gun was registered, he says, and properly stored. He had all the proper licences and police inspected the apartment, armed with a motion-detector alarm, annually.
"I had a permit to purchase submachine guns, rifles and shotguns," the burly grandfather of four says matter-of-factly. "All the guns in there were training guns. There was nothing for sale, they were training guns and personal firearms."
Hargreaves says his income was low enough to qualify for assisted housing.
`If somebody stole a bus and ran over 12 kids, the bus wouldn't be at fault. ... But the minute it's firearms, it's "oh my God, it's firearms."'
Mike Hargreaves, gun collector and firearms instructor
To store his arsenal, Hargreaves brought in a monstrous safe. It was so heavy, movers had to take off the 500-pound door so the elevator could carry it to the 17th floor. By Christmas 2003, Hargreaves had $40,000 worth of guns locked in the safe. He said he had a permit issued by federal firearms officials and the permit was displayed beside the safe.
Hargreaves says housing officials were unaware that he was storing firearms near families with children.
The daring high-rise burglary worthy of a movie script happened around New Year's, 2004. Hargreaves was in Florida at the time, where his son runs a security company.
The Gilder apartment building is at Midland Ave. and Eglinton Ave. E. - not far from where a gang turf war raged.
Hargreaves believes the thieves lowered themselves from an 18th-floor balcony, pried loose a wire mesh designed to keep out pigeons and entered through the sliding balcony door. Police are less convinced and think they came through the front door.
Working for two days, thieves used sledgehammers and blowtorches to blast open the 1,700-pound, concrete-and-steel Brinks safe. They made off with about 35 guns, including military assault rifles, machine guns, and semi-automatic pistols, a bullet pressing machine and dozens of rounds of ammunition.
The most dramatic, known use of the stolen guns was on Sept. 16 last year. A gun battle involving one of the stolen 9mm Glock semi-automatic pistols left three men dead in and around a BMW parked behind an Etobicoke building at 75 Tandridge Cres. Joseph Santos, 25, Donald Rawluck, 24, and Shane James, 26, were killed. A fourth man - Michael Matthew Scott - was charged with second-degree murder.
Det. Sgt. Terry Wark, one of the homicide investigators on the case, confirmed the Glock came from the break-in. Investigators say the shooting started after a dispute over a gun sale.
Police say they have now recovered about 15 of the guns since the New Year's break-in two years ago and that their investigations show the "Gilder guns" were also used in a downtown robbery and a road-rage incident, according to 41 Division Det. Const. Tom Imrie, who led the probe into the break-in.
After the break-in, police issued a warrant for Hargreaves' arrest, claiming the firearms were unsafely stored and improperly imported. The charge against him is not extraditable, so police have to wait for him to cross the border. He says former deputy police chief Peter Scott, a friend, has encouraged him to come home.
"I hate criminals with a passion. I've taught people to fight them all my life," he says.
The break-in and loss of "40 years of firearms" left him "clinically depressed." He received $20,000 from insurance - half the value of the guns.
Hargreaves, who seems to have a wireless earpiece for his cellphone permanently in his ear despite being "retired," takes reporters upstairs to an office and his wall of plaques and ribbons attesting to his 23 years as a gun instructor and his prowess as a shooter.
The centrepiece of this collection is a framed poster of the Toronto police's Emergency Task Force in action, signed by Peter Scott and several other officers.
He defiantly refuses to accept responsibility for the Gilder Dr. break-in.
"If somebody stole a bus and ran over 12 kids, the bus wouldn't be at fault. If somebody stole 50 pounds of dynamite and blew up a house, the dynamite wouldn't be at fault. But the minute it's firearms, it's `oh my God, it's firearms.'"
While investigators were stunned to learn that kind of firepower had been stored in a subsidized apartment in an area rife with gang violence, Hargreaves says he followed the law.
`I've had a love affair with guns since I was a child. My dad said I'd grow out of it, but he was wrong.'
Mike Hargreaves, gun collector and firearms instructor
"There's no rule that you have to be there every minute, you don't have to live there, you don't have to sleep there, you have to have a licence on the wall," Hargreaves says.
While the doubling of gun-related homicides last year focused attention on the smuggling of guns from the United States, the Liberals' proposed ban on handguns has ignited debate whether a total ban on handguns would have any effect.
Several months after the spectacular gun heist, police arrested alleged gang leader Phillip Atkins, 22, and charged him with the break and enter at the subsidized housing unit.
Atkins is currently facing two counts of first-degree murder and four counts of attempted murder in connection with a spate of shootings of innocent people in Scarborough, all within weeks of the break-in.
Where have the other guns gone? There are suspicions they have been used in a number of shootings.
Although Atkins has been charged in connection with the Gilder break in, police have not linked any of the guns taken from there with any of the shootings he is alleged to have committed.
Atkins and co-accused Tyshan Riley, 23, are charged with the Jan. 25 slaying of Omar Hortley, 21, gunned down while walking to friend's house to watch TV in Malvern, a community in northeast Scarborough.
On March 3, 2004, gunmen opened fire on Brenton "Junior" Charlton, 31, and Leonard Bell, 45, who were stopped at an intersection over the dinner hour at Finch Ave. and Neilson Rd.
Charlton died, but Bell survived. Atkins and Riley are charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder in that case, in addition to his other attempted murder charges.
Christopher Reid, 26, was convicted of the break-in and weapons charges after he was nabbed carrying a Beretta stolen from the apartment. He was sentenced to four years and three months in prison. Hargreaves, who has testified at a number of murder trials as a gun expert for the defence, said he is saddened by all the gun violence in Toronto.
But knowing police have a warrant for his arrest he is not making any plans to return to Toronto any time soon. He said Scott, his good friend, has urged him to return to Toronto to deal with the charges, but he has declined. Hargreaves says he has applied for a U.S. green card and if he leaves he believes he will be "deemed to have abandoned my application."
"He knows the warrant's out there. I don't suspect he'll be coming back anytime soon unless anything forces him," says homicide Det. Stacy Gallant, formerly of the gun and gang task force who swore out a warrant for Hargreaves' arrest.
Instead of returning to Toronto, he relied instead on a "former senior police officer" and his business partner to clean up the mess in his trashed apartment. After 30 years of living in Canada, he plans to make Florida his home. His son Michael lives nearby and runs a security company. Hargreaves and his wife bought their house for $199,000 US in October 2004. He no longer has the subsidized housing unit on Gilder.
In addition to helping police forces, Hargreaves' resume shows that he has testified as an expert witness on behalf of the defence in Toronto court cases numerous times. He suspects that is one reason the police have charged him - they don't like that he used his knowledge of guns for people charged with gun-related offences.
"I've never been charged with a criminal offence in any country I've lived in, Britain, Germany, Australia, Canada, `til this," said Hargreaves who says he has been stabbed twice, and shot once in the hand by an errant bullet on the firing range.
"I think I had two speeding tickets in 30 years."
While the incident in Canada has left a bad taste, Hargreaves remains unabashed about his passion.
"I've had a love affair with guns since I was a child," said Hargreaves. "My dad said I'd grow out of it, but he was wrong."
Typical british/canadian scapegoat justice.
two days to break into a safe and he was negligent WTF????
DOZENS of rounds of ammunition?!
A BULLET PRESSING DEVICE?!
I just wet myself......
Instead of outlawing guns, how 'bout getting rid of the Jamaicans that are doing all this shit? I know a lot of Canadians, but none named Tyshan
Oh boy the NS forum is going to have a field day with this one.
My favorite quote:
No, that's not slanted reporting, nope, not at all.
Yeah, I don't get it. If the safe he bought was so large that they had to take it apart to get it up the elevator, how was he negligent?
2 DAYS to get into a safe....Jesus......
Looks like this theft is being spun into a call for more Canadian Gun Control
Street gangs zero in on gun owners
Miller calls for weapons ban as police warn collectors they are targets
Jan. 8, 2006
Gang members are actively gathering intelligence on legitimate gun collectors who have been targeted in recent years, leading police to warn owners to be careful about who they confide in about their weapons.
No amount of security is going to stop determined thieves from breaking into gun safes, says Inspector Dave McLeod, head of the Toronto police's urban organized crime squad.
"We know they are gathering intelligence on gun owners, but we don't yet know exactly how they are doing it," McLeod said.
Mayor David Miller said it's time to rid the city of privately-owned guns.
"That's exactly why I supported Prime Minister Paul Martin's call for a ban on the ownership of guns," Miller told the Star's Christian Cotroneo yesterday during an anti-gun rally.
"Guns are stolen from so-called legal gun owners and used to shoot people on the streets of Toronto and it's not acceptable," Miller said. "We have to put a stop to it. And the only way to do that is to ban the ownership of guns. I say the rights of us to be safe trump the rights of that so-called legal gun collector and that's why I've called for handguns to be banned in Toronto."
Miller and McLeod were commenting in the wake of a Saturday Star story detailing the fallout from a break-in at the subsidized apartment of Toronto gun collector Mike Hargreaves in late 2003 and the theft of dozens of high-powered weapons, including guns that have already been used on Toronto's streets, some in fatal incidents.
Hargreaves, 70, a well-known firearms instructor, is now living in Orlando, Fla., and hasn't returned to Canada since the theft of his guns. There is an outstanding warrant for his arrest on a charge of improper storage of his firearms.
McLeod hopes a new tip line set up by police will help them gather their own intelligence on how gang members are smuggling guns into the country and just how they find out the source of domestic guns held by registered gun owners. The hotline number is (416) 343-GUNS.
The Hargreaves break-in raises questions about just how safe gun collections are, especially when they are held at residences, but McLeod believes that the biggest source of illegal weapons continues to be those smuggled into Canada from the U.S.
Still, McLeod wonders how Hargreaves could store such a large collection of guns — more than 30 — in his community housing apartment on Gilder Dr. in Scarborough.
Hargreaves said he did everything legally and was devastated to find out that some of his guns have been linked to violence.
He said he moved into the 31 Gilder Dr. apartment, run by the Toronto Community Housing Corp., a decade ago because his income was low enough to allow him to qualify.
Police say a gun stolen from the apartment was used in September during one of the worst bloodbaths in the city's history. Three men were shot dead during a botched gun deal. A fourth man is facing a charge of second-degree murder in the shooting.
I want to know the exact charge on that warrant and the terms of that crime.
My understanding from the article is that he followed the letter of the law in establishing his safe and collection in the Scarborough apartment yet he is accused of improper storage of said firearms?
Beat me to it.
There's a lot of things I could comment about in that article, but this particular quote should speak for itself.
Registered guns and a source of information to guide the thieves where to look.
Who has access to those registration records?
I don't think it is breaking news that government officials can be bought
This is the part that worries me...........I can see them trying that here(again)
Two days to break the safe. Either a damn good safe or the Jamaicans didn't know what they were doing.
wait i thought canada was blaiming the US for all thier gun crimes.
oh well i guess its now the "so called" legal gun owners fault. will it ever be a criminals fault?